Review – “7 Deadly Scenarios” by Andrew F. Krepinevich

Review – “7 Deadly Scenarios” by Andrew F. Krepinevich

This is a book that you should read.  Unless you are not planning to be around in a few years, this book should scare the $#!&@ out of you. Why you ask? Is it about graphic violence and torture? No. Is it about Monsters and Demons? No.  Is it about cataclysmic natural disaster?  No.  Is it about the end of the world? Well – maybe.

7 Deadly Scenarios” is an exposition on seven possible scenarios that could confront the US and our military in the not too distant future. It’s written by Andrew F. Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He’s also a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy. He served for 21 years in the Army and has a PhD from Harvard. You could say that he knows his stuff.

The book opens with a discussion about the importance of scenario planning and how it can prepare you for the future – if you are willing to listen. Did you know, for example, that military war game exercises in 1932 accurately simulated a surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that was “unopposed by the defense, which was virtually caught napping”? I sure didn’t. More frighteningly, the Army Air Corps protested the outcome of that simulated attack citing, among other things, “it was improper to begin a war on Sunday”. The War Games umpires sided with the Army Air Corp. As we all know – 10 years later the attack on Pearl Harbor actually occurred – proving both the Army Air Corp and the umpires wrong.

This one example brought home to me the dangers and inherent difficulty we face in trying to plan for our security in a future where the enemy doesn’t play by our rules. Too often we are so much “in” the present that we refuse to believe or accept that things could unfold differently. This book highlights the importance of looking at scenarios, planning contingencies, and asking “what if?” questions.

Krepinevich says more than once in the book – we can’t predict the future. However detailed these predictions are, they are only meant to be POSSIBLE futures – sets of circumstances that COULD arise. He points out that we can plan for “risk” – things that we don’t know, but have a reasonable probability of predicting; but can’t plan for “uncertainty” – things that we don’t know, or can’t know. By planning for “risk” we can minimize the impact of “uncertainty”.

I won’t take a deep dive into the scenarios themselves – I’ll leave those for you to read – but here’s a taste:

  • What would happen is Pakistan collapsed and their nukes fell in to rouge hands?
  • How would we react if terrorist where able to detonate a series of nuclear bombs in major American cities?
  • Could we maintain order and civility if America were hit with a pandemic illness, much like the last great flu pandemic in 1918?
  • If the Middle East finally dissolved in to open warfare, and Iran pledged nuclear attack on Israel – would we come to their aid?
  • In a conflict over Taiwan, how would China use cyber warfare and asymmetrical force to counteract US military might?
  • If Muslin extremists disrupted global shipping lanes and oil delivery – could the world economy survive?
  • If we pull out of Iraq, would it create a power vacuum ready to be filled by Muslim extremists, Iran, Russia, or even China?

All of the scenarios are eerily plausible, and written in a style that could have come straight from the headlines, five years in the future. They make you stop and think – are we ready for what could be coming our way? Are our leaders looking to the future and anticipating the obstacles ahead, or are they busy telling themselves that tomorrow will look just like yesterday?  Are we preparing to play the wrong game, at the wrong time, with people who are playing by a different set of rules?

This book doesn’t really have a story or a narrative flow, but it does have a message – if we don’t adequately plan for risk, we have no hope of overcoming uncertainty.  I found myself consumed with the possibilities this book presented and genuinely concerned about the potential futures these seven scenarios put forth.  Most importantly, I question how we are planning to meet them.

If you’re a news junkie, you should read this book.  If you’re history buff, you should read this book.  Or – if you’re just a normal person concerned about the dangerous world live in and unsettled by the naïve and shortsighted view our current “leaders” seem to have of world affairs – you should read this book.  It will open your eyes.  It will make you think.  It will scare the $#!&@ out of you.

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